Some drivers with years of experience still lack confidence in their ability to parallel park. In fact, a 2009 Harris Interactive online study, commissioned by Ford Motor Co., found that nearly one-third of U.S. drivers “avoid parallel parking as much as possible.” Among female drivers, 43 percent rated their parallel parking skills as “fair” or “poor.” Among male drivers, 21 percent assessed their own parallel parking as “fair” or “poor.”
Of course, some vehicles today have park assist technology and the car can park itself. But that feature certainly isn’t ubiquitous – not yet, anyway.
Fortunately, parallel parking is easier to master when the task is broken down into small, distinct steps and the driver takes time to practice in a risk-free, stress-free environment.
Liberty Mutual Insurance recommends these seven steps to parallel parking. You may want to pass along the advice to fleet drivers.
Step 1. Use your turn signal to indicate you’re parking. Make sure the space you’re aiming for is at least 6 feet longer than your car.
Step 2. Pull up beside the car in front of the space where you intend to park.
Step 3. Look over your shoulder and reverse the car slowly. As the front of your car passes the rear bumper of the car you’re parking behind, turn the steering wheel towards the curb.
Step 4. Continue backing up slowly into the space while checking your mirrors.
Step 5. Once you get your car halfway into the space, turn the steering wheel the other way.
Step. 6. Continue turning the wheel as you back up into the space. A safe distance of 1 foot from the curb is ideal.
Step 7. Straighten out the wheels and pull forward or back in the space to center your car.
To watch a video demonstrating how to parallel park, click on the photo or link below the headline. (This instructional video, produced by All-Star Driver in Connecticut, combines some of the steps but the advice is generally the same.)
Until a driver feels comfortable parallel parking, it’s a good idea to practice on an empty street using cones or boxes to represent the front and back of the other parked vehicles. An industrial park on a Saturday or Sunday might provide a good practice area.
Practice might take away the anxiety of parallel parking the next time the driver – for example – arrives just in the nick of time for a sales call, discovers all the nearby parking lots are full, and spots one sole space on the street in front of the client’s office building. At a moment like that, the practice time will seem like a good investment.
Under no circumstances, however, should fleet drivers employ the parallel parking technique demonstrated in this video. It is pretty impressive, though.